5 LESSONS I LEARNT FROM THE COMRADES MARATHON
As watch my friends go through the Taper in preparation for the Comrades Marathon, I could be envious but I’m not because as much as I wanted that back to back medal I also know that one cannot do Comrades if ill prepared. My Comrades journey of May 2016 was 9 months in the making. Since the moment the running bug bit me in September 2015, Comrades was always going to be an inevitable journey as no runner can call themselves a runner without tackling the Ultimate Human Race.
When I reflect on my Comrades journey there are 5 lessons I can take out of it
How you finish does not matter as long as you finish. The last mile gives the greatest joy
With a dodgy hamstring and shattered legs I could not help but feel overwhelmed as I ran my last km to the finish. While my legs were heavy and numb from pain it was like every km I’ve run in preparation just came flooding through. Every doubt, every pain, every early morning and every diet made sense because I knew that having completed the Comrades will be something I will cherish for the rest of my life. A friend said, “once a Comrade always a Comrade”.
The fist 30kms of the comrades journey is filled with joy and energy, the atmosphere is buzzing with exciting and fear. After 30kms the legs begin to tire, you start asking yourself whether or not you can even get to half way, and you question the madness of it all but somehow you persist, you keep pushing, you keep moving. When you get to half way the silence increases, you look to your left, you look to your right, and you feel a sense of community because your neighbor is in as much pain. You look ahead and you see someone just about moving and you start feeling grateful that you not feeling like that guy but seeing that guy makes you start doubting yourself, you mind starts playing games and then you tell yourself to focus on the journey ahead. This will keep you going for another 10 to 20km.
My greatest joy of the Comrades Journey was the friends I made not only own the road but throughout the Jourey. I was fortunate to join a club with like-minded individuals. A club with veterans as well as novices all consistently putting in the hard work to complete the Comrades Journey. Not being part of the journey in 2017 makes me feel a sense of loss but I will be with my friends in spirit.
Consistency and focus
When you get to 60km on your Comrades journey you thank God for the consistent long runs; For waking up at 4am week in and week out to do the weekly long run. The physical and mental exhaustion as you try and balance work, family and everything in between. At 60km you know your consistency is the difference, your consistency has built mental and physical strength and consistency has given you extra will. The consistent hard work gives one the ability to dogmatically focus on the goal at hand. The ability to focus through fatigue, pain, and all the other emotions that a runner needs to endure.
When I started the Comrades journey it was part of a bigger purpose. I did it in memory of my life mentor, I did it for charity, I did it for my brother in law who battling cancer, a battle he unfortunately lost, I did it for myself to prove and express my character. At 70kms in the Comrades Journey, your legs are shattered, no amount of training can now get you to the finish, all you can do is will your legs to move when it wants you to stop. At this point you hungry, you tired and you just want to rest (You gatvol). At 70km you just want it to end. At 70km you need to search deep in your soul for a reason to finish and then your purpose for starting the journey gets you through.
There are a few moments in ones life that one can sit back and reflect on a job well done, of slaying that monster, of overcoming mental hurdles and letting go of fear. When you cross that finish line for the first time no words can express the joy you feel because it is a joy between you and your maker, a joy so deep in your soul that you just cannot explain it to anyone. Every Comrade knows the joy which is why they either return or long to return. The joy you feel makes you believe that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. It’s a joy, a peace, that is unique to everyone that has taken the journey.
Good luck to all my Comrades on 4 June 2017. I will be with you in spirit.